Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jong Un’

North Korea ‘rant’ letter shows sanctions are biting

October 20, 2017

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called a North Korean letter to parliament “basically a rant” against Donald Trump. Turnbull praised China, saying the letter showed that fresh sanctions were hitting Pyongyang hard.

Australien Li Keqiang, Malcolm Turnbull (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/M. Tsikas)Turnbull, pictured here with China’s Li Keqiang, praised Beijing for piling the pressure on Pyongyang

Turnbull heaped praise on China, Australia’s largest trading partner, on Friday, saying Beijing’s involvement in the latest set of UN Security Council sanctions was helping to “squeeze” North Korea into dropping its nuclear threats.

China, notwithstanding its “very close history with North Korea,” had become part of global sanctions, especially by restricting oil exports into North Korea, Turnbull told Melbourne 3AW radio.

China, according to US estimates, controls 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade. Russia also has considerable influence in Pyongyang. The latest sanctions particularly target the import of crude oil and natural gas products, and North Korea’s textile exports.

Distributed via Jakarta

The letter entitled “Open Letter to Parliaments of Different Countries” was sent by North Korea from its embassy in Jakarta to the Australian embassy in Indonesia.

“It’s basically a rant about how bad Donald Trump is,” Turnbull said, referring to recent verbal exchanges between the US President and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Nordkorea Diktator Kim Jong-un (Reuters/KCNA)North Korea’s Kim Jong Un celebrates September test

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the letter was unusual because North Korea normally communicated with the outside world through its news agency KCNA.

“I think this shows they are feeling desperate, feeling isolated, trying to demonize the US, trying to divide the international community,” Bishop told Australia’s Fairfax Media.

Image result for kim jong un, photos

Big miscalculation, says North

In a facsimile of the letter published by the Sydney Morning Herald, North Korea said “if Trump thinks that he would bring the DPRK, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat, it will be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance.”

The DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is North Korea’s official name.

Unanimous sanctions

The latest sanctions approved unanimously by the UN Security Council on September 11 came in response to North Korea’s sixth and strongest underground nuclear test explosion on September 3 at its Punggye-ri nuclear site.

The council banned North Korea from importing natural gas liquids and condensates as well as crude oil imports and exports of North Korean textile products.

North Korean missile launch show on South Korean television in April (Getty Images/AFP/J. Yeon-Je)North Korean missile launches have caused alarm in South Korea. A television screen at a Seoul railway station in April

The sanctions also ban joint ventures and cooperative operations and bar any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — a major source of hard currency for the reclusive northeast Asian nation.

Act as if ‘on the cusp,’ says CIA’s Pompeo

Addressing a forum in Washington on Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said North Korea was still months away from perfecting its nuclear capabilities but urged Washington to behave “as if we are on the cusp” of Pyongyang achieving its objective.

USA Mike Pompeo - Trumps Kabinett (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. B. Ceneta)Mike Pompeo, CIA Director

“We are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that capacity,” Pompeo said.

In a show of power, the US flew bombers along North Korea’s coastline in late September.

On Wednesday, Pompeo’s predecessor John Brennan voiced concern about tweets broadcast by Trump and warned that prospects of nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula was “greater than they have been in several decades.”

North Korea began its nuclear program decades ago and recently accelerated its weapons testing. Twice in July, it launched long-range missiles.

ipj/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)


North Korea says ‘a nuclear war may break out any moment’

October 17, 2017

By Edith Lederer

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador warned Monday that the situation on the Korean peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.”

Kim In Ryong told the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee that North Korea is the only country in the world that has been subjected to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” from the United States since the 1970s — and said the country has the right to possess nuclear weapons in self-defense.

Kim Jong Un at the test launch of a missile, Sept. 16, 2017, in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency-Korea News Service-AP)

He pointed to large-scale military exercises every year using “nuclear assets” and said what is more dangerous is what he called a U.S. plan to stage a “secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership.”

This year, Kim said, North Korea completed its “state nuclear force and thus became the full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges, including the atomic bomb, H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic rockets.”

“The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe,” he warned.

Kim’s speech follows escalating threats between North Korea and the United States, and increasingly tough U.N. sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that his country is curtailing economic, scientific and other ties with North Korea in line with U.N. sanctions, and the European Union announced new sanctions on Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.” His commitment to diplomacy came despite President Donald Trump’s tweets several weeks ago that his chief envoy was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he derisively referred to as “Little Rocket Man.”

North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador called his country’s nuclear and missile arsenal “a precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything.”

“Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the U.S. is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” Kim said.

He told the disarmament committee that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — North Korea’s official name — had hoped for a nuclear-free world.

Instead, Kim said, all nuclear states are accelerating the modernization of their weapons and “reviving a nuclear arms race reminiscent of (the) Cold War era.” He noted that the nuclear weapon states, including the United States, boycotted negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was approved in July by 122 countries at the United Nations.

“The DPRK consistently supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of the entire world,” he said. But as long as the United States rejects the treaty and “constantly threatens and blackmails the DPRK with nuclear weapons … the DPRK is not in position to accede to the treaty.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are more important than the nuclear deal — “The Guards are the defender of the nation.”

October 15, 2017

By Raghida Dergham

When the administration of former President Barack Obama claimed it was helpless in relation to Iran’s separation of nuclear negotiations from its regional ambitions, it omitted to say that it had had allowed Iran’s Republican Guards to intervene in Syria and Iran publicly.

On this issue, Washington was turning a blind eye to the flouting of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran from exporting men and material outside its borders and using and backing proxy militias.


The Obama administration had voluntarily agreed to ignore these resolutions otherwise necessary to rein in the IRGC, albeit it used as a pretext the need to conclude and safeguard the nuclear deal for the sake of US national interests at any cost in the region. As the sanctions on Iran were lifted, the IRGC benefits from the influx of billions of dollars unfrozen by Washington as part of the nuclear deal. For this reason, claiming that Iran’s incursions in Iraq and Syria had nothing to do with the nuclear deal is a lie, because the Obama administration knew full well what it was doing. The former president not only became willfully blind to the massacres enabled by the IRGC to keep Bashar Assad in power, the same Assad that Obama had said must step down, but his administration also financed in a de-facto manner the activities of the cash-strapped Iranians in the Arab region.

Image result for Iran's revolutionary guards, photos

Today, it is important to remind those who mourn Obama’s wisdom compared to Trump’s recklessness of this history with regard to the fate of the nuclear deal. The rise of the IRGC and its expansion in the Arab region, as well as its growing influence within Iran at the expense of moderates, all happened because the Obama administration allowed it to happen. And let no one claim this was accidental or a byproduct of policy; rather, it was a historic shift in the Middle East engineered by a calculated American decision. So what is happening now as the Trump administration is about to de-certify the nuclear deal, amid reports the administration and the Congress could designate the IRGC a terrorist organization?

Iranian reactions sought to preempt any serious move by the US president and Congress to designate the IRGC quickly and firmly, issuing threats and warnings. The so-called moderate camp, to out-bid its opponents, rushed to the defense of the IRGC, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declaring following his meeting with the IRGC head General Mohammad Ali Jafari: “We have repeatedly declared that the IRGC is an honor for our country and a guarantor of the defense of our homeland and the continuation of the revolution that defends the borders of our country. If US officials commit this strategic mistake, the Islamic Republic of Iran will surely reciprocate. We have designed a number of actions that will be announced at the right time.”

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Jafari said: “Diplomatic expression is different from defense forces’ expression, but its content and orientation are the same. Trump must be sure that we [the IRGC] are united with the Foreign Ministry and our government.”

“The Guards are the defender of the nation,” government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said. “If the US wants to put the Guards on the terrorist list, it puts itself in the camp of terrorists. Any country that wants to have such a position about the Guards will share this view with the Daesh terrorists.”

The wrath in Iran’s official corridors indicates that Tehran is deeply concerned by Washington’s moves against the IRGC, whether to slap additional sanctions or designate it a terror group, as this could lead to a serious destabilization of the regime’s structure in Tehran and the regimes that collaborate with the IRGC on their territories.

The IRGC is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and Iran may even be prepared to sacrifice its ballistic missile program to protect the Guards from Donald Trump and the US Congress.

Raghida Dergham

The Iranian establishment is hoping that the threats issued by the Trump administration will not be serious, and would be thwarted by Tehran’s co-signatories in the nuclear deal led by the EU’s Federica Mogherini and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to Russia and China naturally. However, the Iranians are deeply concerned especially that Trump intends to rely in his new Iran strategy on Congress, which has always looked for ways to trim the wings of the Islamic Republic, especially with regard to its sponsorship of terrorism as well as regional expansionism.

In truth, the IRGC is much more valuable for Tehran than the nuclear deal. It is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and any measures against it will deeply impact Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. For this reason, Tehran wants to link its stringent defense of the IRGC against America’s measures and the nuclear deal, to protect both.

Tehran may agree to including its ballistic missile program in the nuclear deal in return for guarantees regarding the IRGC and protecting it from any real measures or designations. It understands the seriousness of the US president’s de-certification of its compliance with the nuclear deal, not because it believes this will lead to the undoing of the deal – which is not on the table at present – but because de-certification means that Trump is throwing the ball into Congress’s court, which carries dangerous implications for the Islamic Republic.

Trump’s de-certification of the nuclear deal means that he does not want to confirm Iran’s compliance, as he is required to do every 90 days, in view of his criticisms of the substance of the deal which believes is the “worst possible.” Yet he is not about to walk away from it, although as president, it is his right to declare the deal is not in the US national interest regardless of Tehran’s compliance.
Rather, Trump wants to re-open negotiations on Tehran’s missile program, although he has not yet proposed expanding them to include Iran’s regional expansionism. Perhaps that was implicitly included in his tackling of the IRGC.

Both the action against the IRGC and the de-certification of the deal carry complex questions, and declaring them without actual and serious measures could discredit both Trump and Congress.
Meanwhile, the media’s keenness to defend the nuclear deal is interesting, because in one layer of it, it reflects the media’s preparedness to overlook Iran’s expansionism in the Arab region via the IRGC and even defend the latter against terror designation. There is a kind of fatalist narrative in the US liberal media that there is no other option but to cave in to Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, with the claim that standing up to the former would reinforce the latter’s intransigence and distrust of the US. In reality, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un must remember what the US does to those who surrender their nuclear arms, such as Col. Qaddafi, and to those who surrender their programs to weapons inspectors, such as Saddam Hussein.

The liberal media in the US has decided that North Korea and Iran’s nuclear capabilities are irreversible, and effectively dismiss the non-proliferation principle, with dangerous implications.
The US media has a right to battle Trump and warn against his “recklessness,” “ignorance” and “irrationality,” as they accuse him. However, it has no right to ignore the terrifying consequences of policies that it had once consented to before waking up to criticize now, from George W. Bush’s Iraq war, to his and Obama’s enablement of Iran in Iraq, and then in Syria, where the Obama administration once claimed to support the moderate rebellion.

• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @RaghidaDergham

Jimmy Carter Willing to Travel To North Korea for Peace Talks

October 10, 2017

In an intervention likely to irritate Donald Trump, former US president says he is willing to travel to  to discuss a treaty

By Justin McCurry
The Guardian

Jimmy Carter on a visit to Pyongyang in 2010 to try to win the release of a jailed American. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

Jimmy Carter has reportedly said he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a bid to defuse tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes, and bring “permanent peace” to the Korean peninsula.

In an intervention that is likely to irritate Donald Trump, the 93-year-old former president told a South Korean academic that he was willing to travel to the North Korean capital if it meant preventing war.

“Should former president Carter be able to visit North Korea, he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss a peace treaty between the United States and the North, and a complete denuclearisation of North Korea,” Park Han-shik, a professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper.

Park said Carter told him during a meeting at his home in Georgia at the end of September that he wanted to “contribute toward establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

“He wants to employ his experience visiting North Korea to prevent a second Korean war,” he added.

Carter’s recent comments on North Korea have angered the White House, which last month reportedly asked him not to speak publicly about the crisis amid fears he was undermining Trump, who refuses to entertain any form of rapprochement with the regime.

Media reports said a senior US state department official had visited Carter at his home to pass on Trump’s request.

Carter’s conciliatory stance sits uneasily with attempts by the Trump administration to intensify sanctions against Pyongyang and threats to use military force if the US or its allies are threatened by the regime.

Read the rest:

Threat of nuclear catastrophe ‘at highest level since Cold War’

October 10, 2017

At an annual conference designed to prevent nuclear disaster, speakers express concerns over the US President’s stance on Iran and North Korea

By Kim Sengupta Paris

The Independent


Tony Blair said the North Korean regime was ‘abhorrent’ but warned against military strikes. Reuters

The threat of a nuclear catastrophe is higher now than at any time since the most tense days of the Cold War, a leading international think tank has heard. Plummeting US-Russia relations, threats from terrorists and rogue states and, significantly, the behaviour of US President Donald Trump are key factors.

Mr Trump’s shadow loomed over the 10th-anniversary conference of the Luxembourg Forum with speakers expressing grave worry over Mr Trump’s avowed aim of scrapping the landmark nuclear deal with Iran and his repeated public threats to annihilate North Korea.

The failure of Washington and Moscow to negotiate on their nuclear arsenals amid a series of geopolitical confrontations ranging from Ukraine to Syria has created uncertainty and instability, the meeting in Paris was told. But it was impending action by Mr Trump which was the source of deepest and most immediate concern to delegates.


Mr Trump is expected to announce this week that he will not certify the agreement with Tehran, starting a process which may lead gains of years of painstaking diplomacy unravelling. Statesmen at the summit warned that this would also have the highly damaging consequence for attempts to halt North Korea’s nuclear programme with Pyongyang claiming that an international deal can be sabotaged by the US in the future.

Addressing the Forum, Tony Blair acknowledged that aspects of the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) with Iran, were questioned when it was signed. However, he continued: “But now it has been done, it has a process of verification – it means that for now at least the nuclear programme of Iran can be stalled, and the sensible thing, in my opinion, is to preserve it.” The Middle East, he added, was going through a period of great strife and “abandoning the JCPOA would add another dimension of immediate risk which at present we don’t need”.

The former British Prime Minister described the North Korean regime as “abhorrent”. But diplomacy, with the help of China, and not sabre-rattling was the right avenue to stop Kim Jong-un acquiring a nuclear arsenal. “We can threaten military action… But unless there are elements of which I am unaware in either the weakness of the North Korean defences or the strength of US capabilities, it is hard to think of a pre-emptive strike which would not result in catastrophic consequences”, said Mr Blair.

William Perry, the highly respected former US Defence Secretary who had served under Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton, said he was “appalled” by the rhetoric used by Mr Trump over the North Korean crisis: “Leaving aside the matter of political decorum I think this kind of language stimulates and creates the kind of condition which may mean that the US and North Korea may blunder into a war. And the results of such a war would be catastrophic.”

Mr Perry dismissed Mr Trump’s claims about the supposed failure of the Iran nuclear deal. “I do not agree with his views about the agreement. We can see that the agreement has been successful in significantly curtailing the Iranian nuclear programme, to the benefit of our security,” he stated.

“President Trump seems to think that the agreement could be scrapped and then renegotiated. But another agreement is not something which would be available. Scrapping the deal would have an effect everywhere including Europe, among our allies, who know that it is working.”

Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: “President Trump recently spoke of his regard for the UN. The UN has said that Iran is complying with the agreement. Mr Trump now wants to walk away and unilaterally tear up this agreement, saying it is not working. But the fact is that the Iran deal is far-reaching and in place… reached multilaterally and other countries believe it is working and they will try to preserve this agreement.”

Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, the President of the Luxembourg Forum, made clear that “undoing the Iran nuclear deal would be unforgivable”. He also warned that the possibility of a deliberate provocation by North Korea was “very real’ and could trigger a ”global chain of nuclear strikes,“ with America needing to tread carefully over both issues.

Des Browne, the former British Defence Secretary, pointed out that even the most senior members of President Trump’s administration are urging him not to scrap the agreement. “We know that the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson; the Defence Secretary, General James Mattis; his National Security Adviser, General HR McMaster have all taken this view. This seems to be the view across the whole world apart from a very few exceptions. This is an agreement which has the support of the international community and also the support of Iran. But we have Mr Trump determined to take this strange, lonely road. JCPOA was hard fought and hard won. It is something of vital importance, it is something worth fighting again to keep.”

If Donald Trump scraps the Iran deal, other countries will never be able to trust America again

October 9, 2017

By William Hague
The Telegraph
October 9, 2017

Donald Trump denounced Iran at the UN CREDIT: ANADOLU/ANADOLU AGENCY

I do not know Rex Tillerson, the well-regarded former chief of Exxon Mobil, who Donald Trump made US Secretary of State. But I do know that if, as Foreign Secretary, I had ever been treated as he was last week by his boss I would have quit on the spot.

Shortly after Tillerson had told reporters that the US has two or three “lines of communication” with North Korea – a completely sensible and correct statement to make – Trump sent out tweets rebuking him for 
even mentioning diplomacy with Pyongyang. Tillerson then spoke of carrying on in his job, while failing to deny that he had earlier called the President a “moron”.

It is a serious mistake for Trump to undermine his own Secretary of State and seemingly rule out all peacefully agreed solutions to the crisis with North Korea.

It will not be possible to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons simply by threatening war. Yet he now appears….

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U.S. Pressure on North Korea’s Global Ties Bears Fruit

October 9, 2017

Campaign to close Pyongyang’s embassies and curb its business activities world-wide has led more than 20 nations to restrict operations

WASHINGTON—Over 20 nations have curbed the diplomatic or business operations of the North Korean government following a more-than-yearlong effort by the State Department, an indication of the kind of behind-the-scenes pressure the U.S. is using to tackle an emerging nuclear standoff.

U.S. officials have asked countries to shut down businesses owned by the North Korean government, remove North Korean vessels from ship registries, end flights by the country’s national air carrier and expel its ambassadors. At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit earlier this year, U.S. diplomats made sure North Korea couldn’t secure any bilateral meetings.

Mexico, Peru, Spain and Kuwait all expelled their North Korean ambassadors after the U.S. warned that Pyongyang was using its embassies to ship contraband and possibly weapons components in diplomatic pouches and earn currency for the regime. Italy became the latest country to do so on Oct. 1.

Kuwait and Qatar, among other countries, have agreed to reduce the presence of North Korean guest workers, according to U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter.

The campaign abroad is intensifying as the Trump administration adopts stricter sanctions at home, and the United Nations pursues enforcement of its tightest sanctions on Pyongyang yet. The talks are also a contrast to the heated exchanges between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Mr. Trump, who has issued a series of vague threats of possible military action, saying diplomacy has failed.


  • Kim Jong Un Defends Nuclear Program

The latest threat came in a Twitter message Saturday from the president. “Sorry, but only one thing will work,” Mr. Trump wrote. On Thursday, he said a White House meeting with military leaders represented “the calm before the storm.” The White House refused to clarify either remark.

Asked on Sunday what the president meant in his Twitter message, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on NBC that what Mr. Trump “is clearly telegraphing—and this should not be news to anybody—is that military options are on the table with North Korea. They absolutely are.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), by contrast, said diplomacy was the only option for curtailing North Korea’s nuclear program. He said the U.S. should encourage China to step up pressure on Pyongyang.

“There is no viable military option. It’d be horrific,”’ Mr. Johnson, chairman of the Senate’s homeland security committee, said on CNN.

The previous weekend, Mr. Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” by exploring the possibility of negotiations with North Korea. Mr. Tillerson days later held an unusual, unscheduled news conference to deny reports that he had considered resigning.

This photo released on Sunday, a day after it was taken, by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, center, at the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. Photo: KCNA/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The U.S. diplomats, pursuing a quieter campaign alongside U.N. sanctions and talks with China, have been approaching nations as big as Germany and as small as Fiji with highly specific requests, sometimes based on U.S. intelligence, to shut down North Korea’s foreign links.

For example, a U.S. official said, the State Department flagged a North Korean hostel operating in the center of Berlin that they said was sending currency back to the Kim regime. In May, Germany announced it was closing the hostel.

U.S. diplomats asked Fiji to inform the U.N. that as many as 12 North Korean vessels were operating under the Fijian flag without permission, according to a State Department spokesman.

The idea, according to U.S. officials, is to show Mr. Kim that, so long as he seeks missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, he will find no refuge from Washington’s pursuit.

U.S. policy makers, led by Mr. Tillerson, have said they hope that Mr. Kim eventually will conclude his program comes at too high a cost to his regime and his nation a nd enter disarmament talks.

The likelihood of success has become a matter of debate. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that no amount of pressure would convince Mr. Kim to disarm because the North Korean leader sees the nuclear and missile program as his regime’s ticket to survival, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said at a recent hearing.

“Tillerson’s working against—I applaud what he’s done, but he’s working against the unified view of our intelligence agencies, which say there’s no amount of pressure that can be put on them to stop,” Mr. Corker said.

Susan Thornton, the State Department’s top diplomat overseeing the pressure campaign, said at the hearing that the department’s efforts were testing the intelligence community’s assessment and added China’s position was slowly shifting, viewing North Korea as more of a liability than an asset. “I think Secretary Tillerson has made a lot of progress on that front,” she said.

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, has said that new pressure tactics need time to work, but that North Korea eventually will lack the resources to run its missile program.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, shared Sen. Corker’s skepticism at the recent hearing. “You’re all, in your own way, doing that which is strategically necessary in your own lane; and yet we have an objective that may not be achievable at all.”

Many U.S. officials believe Washington must pursue a pressure campaign, even if it ultimately fails, because it represents the best chance of a peaceful solution. The White House has said it backs State Department efforts to squeeze Pyongyang, while opposing negotiations.

The pressure campaign has become a cornerstone of Mr. Tillerson’s policy on North Korea. He often requests that his staff provide him with “specific asks” he can make on North Korea when meeting with counterparts from around the world, according to U.S. officials. Mr. Tillerson has made those requests in nearly all bilateral meetings in recent months and has received weekly updates on the results.

Mr. Tillerson has elevated the campaign, which began in early 2016 after the Obama administration saw Mr. Kim make a significant advance in his drive for an intercontinental nuclear weapon, according to current and former U.S. officials.

State Department officials then drew up a detailed spreadsheet that listed all of North Korea’s known political, economic and military interests around the world—diplomatic missions, cargo ships, guest worker contingents, military relationships and more, a former U.S. official said. The document functioned as a “to do” list of entities to target for closure.

The U.S. diplomats began coordinating on roughly a weekly basis with South Korea and on a monthly basis with Japan, mapping out a strategy and comparing notes, according to the former official.

Initially, the U.S. diplomats faced resistance. Some countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, expressed skepticism about the American requests and saw little need to curtail their links with Pyongyang, current and former U.S. officials said.

But as North Korea exhibited increasingly flagrant behavior this year—assassinating Mr. Kim’s half-brother in the Kuala Lumpur airport, firing its first intercontinental ballistic missiles and testing what many U.S. officials suspect was its first hydrogen bomb—countries that had previously resisted became more cooperative, the officials said.

Myanmar, which U.S. diplomats have been pushing to cut military-to-military ties with North Korea and stop weapons deals with Pyongyang, has resisted the U.S. entreaty.

Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary for Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the country had ordinary ties with North Korea and no special military ties. Myanmar has responded to the U.S. entreaties by asking Washington for evidence of any military dealings, the permanent secretary said.

Similarly, Chile said it has declined to reclassify its wine as a luxury export or to cut diplomatic relations with North Korea, despite personal requests made by Vice President Mike Pence on a recent trip to the country.

—Myo Myo contributed to this article.

Write to Paul Sonne at and Felicia Schwartz at

CIA Official Predicts North Korean Provocation on Columbus Day

October 5, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoor

Kim Jong Un at the test launch of a missile, Sept. 16, 2017, in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency-Korea News Service-AP)

The things Kim Jong Un used to fear most about China and the U.S. are no longer a concern, the CIA Korea Mission Center’s Yong Suk Lee says.

By  Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security Writer

A top CIA official for the Korean Peninsula warned Wednesday that the U.S. should be ready for a new provocation by North Korea on Columbus Day on Oct. 9, which coincides with the anniversary of the founding of the political party that governs in Pyongyang.

“Stand by your phones,” Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, said while speaking at a conference organized by the agency at The George Washington University.

Lee did not speculate what North Korea might do, though it frequently carries out missile launches or nuclear tests on major state anniversaries, such as the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un or other dates associated with the lives of his father or grandfather. Oct. 10 marks the anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea in 1945.

Tensions with North Korea have reached new extremes in recent weeks, following months of increased weapons tests combined with new U.S. appraisals that Pyongyang is close to perfecting or perhaps already has made an intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead and hit targets accurately.

Lee added that Pyongyang historically has been controlled by its fear of the Chinese abandoning its support for the Hermit Kingdom, or that the U.S. would carry out a military strike. Kim Jong Un no longer has those fears, Lee said.

Putin Talks Potential Military Strike Against North Korea

“There’s a clarity of purpose in what Kim Jong Un has done,” Lee said.

He added, however, that the likelihood remains low of North Korea purposefully starting a war with the U.S. or its allies like South Korea.

“The last person who wants conflict on the peninsula is actually Kim Jong Un,” Lee said, adding that Kim, like all authoritarian leaders, wishes to rule for a long time and die in his own bed. “We have a tendency in this country and elsewhere to underestimate the conservatism that runs in these authoritarian regimes.”

President Donald Trump, who continues to utter and tweet threats against North Korea, will visit South Korea, Japan and China on a trip throughout Asia in November.

Tags: North KoreaholidaysKim Jong UnCIAworld newsmissilesnuclear weapons

Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at

North Korea’s Leader Needs to Realise Can’t Survive With Nukes, U.S. General Dunford Says

October 3, 2017

WASHINGTON — The international community’s sanctions need to be strong enough to convince North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un that he cannot survive in power unless he gives up nuclear weapons, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen in the past when the oil’s has been cut off, there’s been a change in Kim Jong Un’s behaviour. The fact is he needs economic resources external to the country to survive,” said Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump Has Confidence in Tillerson, White House Says — Trump said on Sunday that Tillerson was wasting his time trying to talk to North Korea — President Undercut His Own Team (Again)

October 3, 2017

President said Sunday chief diplomat was ‘wasting his time’ in bid to negotiate with North Korea

WASHINGTON—The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a day after Mr. Trump said the chief diplomat was “wasting his time” by trying to negotiate with North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson disclosed over the weekend that the U.S. has had direct contact with Pyongyang and was trying to ascertain whether North Korean officials want to hold talks on their nuclear program. His statements, during a trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, prompted Mr. Trump to tell Mr. Tillerson…

White House: Trump still has confidence in Tillerson


The White House said Monday that President Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even though the president publicly contradicted his top diplomat on North Korea.

“He does, yes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked if Trump still has confidence in Tillerson.

Sanders said she believed the two men have spoken in the past day.

Trump on Sunday tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done,” the president tweeted.

The comments raised questions about Tillerson’s standing in the administration. The former ExxonMobil chief executive has periodically butted heads with the White House over policy and personnel decisions.

Traveling in China over the weekend, the secretary of State said the U.S. was in direct contact with North Korean representatives in an effort to lower tensions with the country.

Sanders reiterated on Monday that Trump does not believe direct negotiation with Kim will resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“Now is not the time to talk,” she said.


Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

This isn’t the first time President Trump has undercut a member of his own staff

President Donald Trump has publicly called out his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Sunday, referring to his nickname for Kim Jong-un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” Trump added in another tweet.

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

The comments came after Tillerson, who was traveling in China over the weekend, told reporters that the U.S. has open “lines of communication” with North Korea in an effort to “calm things down” following threatening exchanges between Trump and Kim.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in Monday’s press briefing that Trump still has confidence in Tillerson but added that “now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”

This isn’t the first time the president has undercut a member of his own staff. Here’s a list of others who have felt their boss’ frustration in very public ways.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a speech outlining the Department of Justice policy regarding Sanctuary Cities and crime by illegal immigrants at the US Attorney’s Office in Center City Philadelphia, PA, on July 21, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Trump repeatedly called out Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. After publicly announcing his displeasure — including telling The New York Times that Sessions’ move was “extremely unfair … to the president” — Trump took to Twitter in July to attack Sessionsfor taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes” and “intel leakers.”

So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

The president also expressed regret over appointing Sessions in the first place, telling the Times, “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”


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President Donald Trump and H.R. McMaster are pictured. | Susan Walsh/AP
President Donald Trump said of H.R. McMaster (right). | Susan Walsh/AP

In May, Trump contradicted H.R. McMaster after the national security advisor denied reports that the president had shared classified information with Russian officials.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

Early the following morning, Trump tweeted that he had in fact shared information with Russia, which he said he had “the absolute right to do.”

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer … and Vice President Mike Pence … and the White House itself 

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, the White House issued a statement, attributed to Spicer, that said the president “acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

That night, after hiding among some bushes on the White House grounds, Spicer emerged to give the same explanation. “It was all him,” Spicer said of Rosenstein, according to The Washington Post.

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Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s then-deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also insisted at the time that Trump made his decision based on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

But then Trump himself spoke out with an entirely different explanation.

“I was going to fire Comey. My decision. I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump also said he factored into his decision the Comey-led FBI probe into Russian interference in the election.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’ ” Trump said.

Donald Trump Jr. 

Trump contradicted his own son — and his own self — when the president revealed in July that he knew about his eldest son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to give the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. first said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his father didn’t know about the meeting, a claim the president also made in a subsequent interview with Reueters.

“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said at the time.

Just hours later, however, Trump told pool reporters of the meeting, “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point.”

Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team